According to Jason Scultety, Senior Key Account Manager at BC Hydro, the most important question that will come up during the planning phase is whether your site has enough electrical power or capacity to support the charging loads your new EVs will demand. At the simplest level, this involves looking at the panel to see if you have enough breakers to connect to the chargers. An electrical contractor can make that determination by comparing how much electricity you’re currently using to what you have available – the delta might be enough to cover your needs, or to support a first phase of charger installs. Your electrical utility can provide billing history and data to support this analysis as well. 

However, charging infrastructure projects often require additional electrical supply to handle the new demand that comes from the stations. Once you have a sense of how many charging stations are needed and where, it’s time to bring in an electrician or charging consultant to determine the appropriate power supply needed. Your electrical lead will evaluate the site, calculate how much power the chargers will draw, and map out any service upgrades. Your electrical utility may also be able to provide a preliminary review of the existing service to your location to determine if there is sufficient capacity for the additional charging power you are considering.  

“It’s site specific. If you have a warehouse, you might only have enough power on site to run the lighting. If you’re in a welding shop, you’re likely to have more power coming in. And if you have a 20-year-old building built for cold storage, you may end up with lots of capacity for charging because that equipment has become more efficient over time and no longer draws as much energy,” says Terry O’Day, COO of charging infrastructure solutions company InCharge Energy.

If your plans call for substantially increasing the power demand inside the building, or for installing DC Fast Chargers to deliver anywhere from 24 kW to 350 kW of charging power, you may need to account for significant costs and time to upgrade the electrical service to the building. At this level, you’ll need planning, permitting — and, potentially, a new transformer and/or tie-in to the power lines brought in by the utility. Depending on site complexity and the scope of work, you’ll need to allow  12–24 months to build out a project of this scale.

Photo: Unsplash / Cory Woodward

Working with your utility

If your assessment shows that new power is needed, one of your first calls should be to your electricity utility. The utility can provide the roadmap to make that happen. Most utilities have customer account managers whose role it is to guide you through the steps and requirements for a successful site upgrade.

Working on a project in B.C.?

Unless a client’s project is very straight-forward, BC Hydro directs them into their EV Ready fleet plan program. This process (funded for eligible projects) pairs a fleet organization with a consultant who can help develop a comprehensive plan for transitioning the fleet to electric vehicles, based on three key steps:

  • assess current fleet vehicles and identify suitable EV matches,
  • determine all electrical infrastructure changes that may be needed,
  • plan all the steps to get the depot or facility ready for an electric fleet.

It’s important to reach out to your utility early and often as you consider your fleet electrification plan.

— BC Hydro program guides

The BC Hydro EV Fleet team offers consultation on your fleet electrification plans and advisory services on the steps required for a new EV charging infrastructure project. 

Those steps include application forms (establishing the project requirements and funding) and engaging utility design services — the department responsible for local grid management design in terms of providing a new service connection or upgrade.

This is usually where a company provides a deposit, and the utility responds with a design brief and the estimated timeline and cost.

Let the pros handle permitting

Just like supporting a hot tub or heat pump, the contractor handles all the permitting and paperwork.

Get the homework done early

It’s important to get all paperwork and planning squared away up front to avoid delays. Depending on your site and your fleet electrification roadmap, this could include any or all of the following:

  • Engineering documentation
  • Site survey
  • Mechanical and electrical drawings
  • Hardware specifications
  • Layouts with proposed equipment
  • Overview of underground work
  • Property agreements to navigate.

Often these are provided or completed by your contractor, but as your organization’s electrification lead you’ll need to ensure that important documentation is provided to the utility at the start of the design process. Pausing a project to complete or update any of these items can lead to significant delays and even cost increases or overruns.

Utility support is required for ZEVIP

The Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program (ZEVIP) from Natural Resources Canada requires proof of utility support and engagement before they’ll consider funding.

Complexity drives timelines

To get a sense of why one electrical upgrade may take more time than another, imagine a bird’s-eye view of your site and consider the construction work required to put in all electrical infrastructure. Telecom, gas lines and water service must be navigated before ground is broken. Digging up or crossing a road — or both? That might mean the municipality will have to reroute traffic. And to start things off, does the local circuit have capacity to add your new load or not?

What keeps us up at night is when an electrical contractor says ‘I need 2 megawatts of new load — and I need that in three months.’

— Jason Scultety, BC Hydro

How to finance your depot charging

  • Take advantage of government subsidies
    Through its Zero-emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program Natural Resources Canada grants organizations funding related to the installation of electric vehicle chargers. Funding is reserved for projects that include a minimum of two 50 kW DC Fast Chargers or a minimum of 20 Level 2 AC chargers. There are also delivery organizations, such as Indigenous Clean Energy, Clean Nova Scotia Foundation and Propulsion Quebec, that distribute funding to fleet projects in their communities.

Read more about EV incentives and rebates across Canada

  • Enlist the help of an electrification consultant
    “There are a lot of grants in Canada and the U.S. to help pay for charging infrastructure,” offers Cliff Fietzek at InCharge. “We have a team to help with that and optimize the cost. We also offer charging as a service, which means that we are financing projects over time, and then the fleet is paying on a per kilometre or on a per kilowatt hour basis.”
  • Consider charging as a service
    Charging-as-a-service providers — like 7Gen, InCharge, PowerOn in Ontario or Cleo in Quebec, allow the high capital costs of charging infrastructure to be translated into operating costs, resulting in a single monthly fee. Often, an automaker’s fleet financing division or leasing company can provide this service as well.
Selling carbon credits

“In some parts of Canada, you can generate carbon credits through your charging infrastructure [for every kWh delivered in charge to an EV] and then sell them through an exchange. The idea is that whoever is building the electrical infrastructure can get the needed investment to do it.” n— Cliff Fietzek, InCharge Energy

Look at what role public charging networks can play for fleet organizations, in the next topic. Don’t forget to Save progress.

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